Hospitality is the call of every Christian, but seems to fall primarily to the women of the household to insure that the home is opened up to others. There are all kinds of examples of what hospitality might look like. I know many, many talented women who just exude hospitality. They have special abilities in cooking, baking, presentation, decorating, organizing.... I admire them and they inspire me in so many ways.
When we were first married we lived on campus in an apartment. All of our friends were dorm dwellers and we saw immediately a great opportunity before us to minister and connect with others. Every Sunday evening we would open our doors after Vespers to anyone that wanted to come in. We provided some snacks. Since we had virtually no money the snacks were usually pretzels and iced tea or on a good week Pillsbury bread sticks with cheese sauce. So with what we had, we would serve our guests and enter into each other's lives and thoughts through conversation.
The first year we were in Indianapolis another young couple came to visit our church. I jotted Ryan and Lisa's phone number down and later in the week called them over to share our spaghetti and sauce from a jar dinner. They gladly accepted and thus began one of the best friendships of our adult lives.
In later years, we opened our home each week with a shared meal and Bible Study. Many important topics were covered and relationships strengthened around our small table even before the study would begin. From the world's standards it wasn't much. Usually it was a self service food from a crockpot and homemade dessert, but it was a joy to serve.
Somewhere along the line my thinking has gone astray in the area of hospitality. Now that I'm no longer in the newly married or young family category, it seems that hospitality has stepped up a notch. I fear that I have imposed the expectations of HGTV and the Food Network onto what God intended to be a ministry that is other focused rather than self focused. I have turned my eyes watch others exercise their gifts rather than trusting God to use me as He desires. I've been thinking more about myself than others.
After being surprised and humbled by the hospitality extended to us this summer in Florida I've been convicted about my many excuses- I'm tired, my house is not up to speed, I don't have time to make something nice, I could never do it like so-and-so, my glasses don't match....
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. -Romans 12:12-13
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. -1Peter 4:8-9
Attending the funeral of our friend, Barbara, there was story upon story about a life dedicated to serving others. Some were being heard for the first time. The hospitality she gave came in many forms and extended beyond the confines of her home. I don't doubt that God grew her character through the years she served countless people from her own table. She lived her life intentionally giving support and comfort to others. Here are a two examples:Barbara and her husband brought my parents their first cord of firewood tied up with a red ribbon. They had briefly met once while visiting church and knew that my parents were building a new home and probably didn't have any cut. She thought that my parents might need some firewood for warmth. That interaction led to more encounters and eventually my parents joined that church where they raised us in the faith.
When my best friend's dad died when she was eighteen, Barbara attended the estate sale. She inquired about my friend's favorite childhood toy and purchased it. She saved that toy for about thirteen years and presented it to her at the birth of her first child. Barbara's vision for loving my young, hurting friend extended ahead through the years.
There were many, many more examples shared of her practical ministry. Many more I'm sure are only known by the Lord. Truly she was the woman described in 1 Timothy 5:10 "... is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds."
In her Bible was found this poem. It sums up well what I have been thinking and praying about the past few months.
Lord help me live from day to day
In such a self-forgetful way
That even when I kneel to pray
My prayers will be for Others.
Help me in all the work I do
To ever be sincere and true
And I know that all I do for You
Must needs be done for Others.
And when my work on earth is done
And my new work in heaven begun
May I forget the crown I've won while thinking still of Others.
Others, Lord, yes, others
Let this my motto be;
Help me to live for Others
That I may live for Thee.